By Lori Leath Smith, Publisher
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
– Song lyrics by Laura Story
Have you ever stopped to ponder why Destin is called the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village?” Though there are many amazing stories of big catches and mighty fishing from the Destin Harbor, there are still those rough times…times for fisherman when hope is dim and times are tough.
For many captains in Destin’s fishing fleet, their success doesn’t ride on luck—it rides on prayer. They know they’re not promised a happy, go-lucky ride all the time. In fact, most will tell you that uncertainty lies around every corner.
For Destin fisherman, as well as locals and area professionals, success has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with blessings. That is what makes continuing the “blessing” tradition so special.
But like the words in Laura Story’s song, Blessings, success and blessings are sometimes disguised in the challenges and hardships we encounter, where we learn to trust, lean on our faith, and grow, though unpleasant at the time. And challenging circumstances remind us just how dependent we are on the bestowment of blessings. It’s when we reach the other side, that we know we’ve arrived through faith, prayer and, yes, being blessed!
More than a half century ago, Destin’s fishing fleet, then a tiny fleet of perhaps four to five boats, began a Blessing of the Fleet. From only a handful of small boats, the fleet has grown and prospered into the largest fishing fleet in North America, with more than 125 charter-fishing boats. The impact has been far reaching says Captain Mike Parker. “Who knew a small little city like Destin would influence towns overseas in Australia and New Zealand, as well as closer ones like Sebring, Florida? But it has, and I’m sure, will continue,” he says.
Captain Mike has been involved in the annual Blessing of the Fleet since he moved to the area years ago and was asked to pray, along with other clergy, during the ceremony. “These pastors make up the ‘Church of Destin’ formed a few years ago as a symbol of unity, crossing denominational barriers,” says Captain Mike. “Where there is unity, there is blessing,” he says.”
And as the Blessing of the Fleet grew, so did the hundreds of people, families and businesses in the area who also wanted to be blessed. And before you knew it, some folks were getting the same vision for possibly expanding the “blessing.” Two of those were Captain Mike and then Destin city councilman and prominent businessman Mel Ponder, now our Florida State Representative. “Both Mel and I were thinking along those lines,” says Mike, even though we didn’t know each other at the time. They approached Father Mike Hesse of Immanuel Anglican Church at different times with the idea to expand the blessing to the entire community. He got on board and that’s how the Blessing of the Marketplace was born, enabling the “blessing” to impact further to the other locals, professionals and visitors, too.
The Blessing of the Fleet and Marketplace have now become part of a full Week of Blessings. Hundreds of business owners, first responders, industry leaders and representatives will gather this year on Wednesday during the Blessing of the Marketplace at Destin United Methodist Church. Local pastors from various churches representing the Church of Destin will pray over people and professionals in our community. The event will last from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. with lunch provided.
“This is truly a unique and special time that the city of Destin and surrounding communities share—to pray for one another and receive blessings,” says Captain Mike. “You’re not going to get that just anywhere, which makes Destin even more blessed.” Could it be that Destin has been dubbed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” because, simply, it is SO blessed? I’ll let you ponder that one.